When I first started going to gym, I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. I did ALOT of research on different exercises and such. Also, looking back, I realized that I went about training in the gym the wrong way. I hope this post will help you feel a bit more at ease if you are a first time gym goer, or even some one who is already a devoted member.
I first started going the gym during middle school and I used to think that you had to do as much as you could for as long as you could to get any results. Boy was I wrong. For weight training, I used to get the heaviest weights I could and try to do 3 sets of 10 of whatever exercise I was doing. If that completely boggled your mind, don’t worry! I will explain this later in this post.
I also used to run before each workout for about 30 minutes. My workouts were about 2-2 1/2 hours long each about 3-4 times a week. YIKES! I also was doing Kungfu at the same time during this.
I was constantly sore and I felt like I was getting no where, which was mostly due to the fact that I was training wrong.
Personally, I believe that anyone who sets out to workout should have some sort of physical goal. No, losing weight does not count as one, because there are several ways to lose weight by going to the gym, and even gaining weight.
So maybe your goal is just to be in better fitness in general, great! I think it’s important to have specific goals so that way you don’t get lost in what you are doing or do anything that might harm your body or even your performance.
For me, I wanted to get stronger overall. So I did lots of weights. I went very heavy and noticed that I still wasn’t getting anywhere. I found out that my form and technique were very bad. If you don’t know how to properly do an exercise this can also both harm your body and affect your performance. You always want to use proper form when exercising to both maximize your workout and your body.
Another thing I struggled with was how to much to actually do certain exercises. So first we should again cover the concept of a “set” and a “repetition”. These are very important terms when exercising. A “set” is basically how much or how many times you do an exercise. A good baseline for a set is about 10-12 times of an exercise. A repetition is the actual act of doing an exercise, so 1 rep would equal, for example, 1 bicep curl or 1 squat. When some one says that they did 3 sets of 10, they mean they did 10 reps of an exercise 3 times. I know that this sounds confusing, but trust me, if you look at any fitness post they will talk about sets and reps.
I like to use two different methods, one I call pyramid training which is essentially lowering the amount of times you do an exercise as you increase the weight. In this case, I always like to start with a very light weight as a warm-up exercise and then I will proceed with my exercise. This warm-up, I find, is very important as it helps prevent your muscles from reaching failure (or fatigue) at the start of your workout. Also, a burn-down which is essentially the same thing as a warm-up set, is very important as this is what helps build the muscles. You build more “muscle” when you muscles are tired. The science behind this is very long to explain and so I want to keep this short and simple or now so just trust me when I say that the burn-down is important. When doing pyramid training, it’s important to not over do it your first time. Pick weights that are comfortable and are heavy enough to challenge you because remember, the next weight will seem much heavier compared to the first.
Click the link above to see a clear visual of what an example pyramid training might look like. I would like to clarify. That example is not something you have to or necessarily should follow when you first do squats. It is only an example. That example is also for working out with an actual squat bar and not dumbbell weights.
Then there’s the second type of weight training which I call endurance lifting. This is where you pick a weight that you are very comfortable at and do a bunch of reps on. I usually will do 3-4 sets of 10 with the same weight either going a little higher like 5 lbs. or even a little lower. Over time, when you feel stronger you would of course change the weight based on how strong you feel
Obviously there are other ways to train, but I think these are the most basic and most commonly used. I gave two different training options because it is also important to switch training methods. When your body gets used to doing the same things all the time it becomes easier for it and so it wont try as hard or grow as much, but when you introduce new things that make it struggle a bit, it will begin to work even harder and improve rapidly! You would be surprised at how much you can grow in a short amount of time, as long as you put in the hard work and effort.
In general, when adding weight, you don’t want to exceed 10 lbs. when starting out. I generally increase my weights by increments of 5-15 lbs. depending on what I’m doing. However just start out with 5-10 lbs. for the time being.
One last note, do not try and get everything done in one day! It’s okay to do a full body workout, but don’t try and think you’ll hit every muscle in one day and do the same thing the next. It’s called sore muscles. I like to spread out my workouts throughout the week. Again depending on what you are doing or what your goals are, you can plan accordingly. For example, I usually have an upper body day dedicated to working out my arms and my back, a leg day which is usually something like plyometrics (jumps and sprints) or practicing Kungfu which really works your legs, and I also have an ab day which I predominantly use for training my abs and working on my pull-ups. In this scenario, I’m technically working out my back twice a week, but that’s because one of my goals is to be able to do a lot of pull-ups so of course I would train that part of my body more often. However, over-training any area of your body can also slow down growth and improvement as well, so it is very important to have a rest day(s) in between workout days. This could look like a total break from the gym or as simple as not working out that part of your body.
Last but not least is stretching. This is so crucial because it helps prevent you from getting muscle tears and any other injuries that might occur from tight muscles. It is recommended to stretch twice in you workout: before and after. Sometimes this doesn’t always happen, but at least stretch out before attempting any exercises, or else it is highly probable that you will pull a muscle and then be out for a couple of days to even a couple of weeks!
I understand that this was a lot of information, but I hope it was helpful. Obviously reading all of this makes working out seem like a big and daunting task, having to know all these things, but if anything, I suggest working out first with someone who knows what they are doing so that way you don’t have to to do endless reading. There is still so much more to this area and the information I covered barely scratches the surface, but that’s kind of the fun behind working out. Learning different things and new exercises is so exhilarating and enjoyable. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.